Friday, 22 June 2018

Along the Brunstane Burn

My little grandson and I took a walk along the Brunstane Burn this morning.  It is a fast moving stream which skirts the very outskirts of Edinburgh and runs out into the sea near Musselburgh.  It also runs along the back of the house so is very easy to access.  We walked along to the grounds of Newhailes House, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.  Good stuff for a wee boy with chickenpox!!
The flower of the hogweed.  Such an unattractive name for one of my favourite summer flowers and seedheads.
 Bramble flowers, looking lovely before morphing into a juicy blackberry later in the summer.
 Under the main railway line bridge, which echoes when you call 'cuckoo'.
Along the bank of the burn there were the huge umbrella leaves of butterbur, Petasites hybridus.  It has a rather unexciting stumpy pink flower in early spring and then produces enormous rhubarb-like leaves, which create a cool green world along the banks of rivers and streams during the summer. 
Newhailes House is owned by the National Trust for Scotland ( and is undergoing a massive refurbishment of house and gardens, especially the walled garden.  It is a very elegant house, and always reminds me of a French chateau.
My grandson and I walked along in the sunshine, in front of the ha-ha, across the grass from the house.  The little chap was trying to work out who the other little boy was, accompanying us on our walk.  His shadow skipped just ahead of him!

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Garden notes

Our little inner garden is exactly one year old this month, and it is bringing us lots of pleasure.  
Storm Hector did his best to dislodge the young runner bean tendrils, but the plants are made of sterner stuff and seem to be carrying on regardless.  Thank goodness!
I call our garden inside the wall the inner garden, and on the other side there is a completely different arrangement, but it is still part of the garden to me!  The outer garden.  The old farm track leading to the cottages is wild, and has been beautiful over the past few weeks with cow parsley and a few ox eye daisies I have planted.  I knew them as moon daisies when I was a little girl.  The rambling honeysuckle has been out for a few days now.  Not so wild, but spectacular this year, were the lilac trees.  A towering wall of fragrance and flowers.
On the outer side of our garden wall I have a collection of plants which I hope are going to be able to cope with very poor stoney ground, high winds and dry conditions.  So far, so good!  Nothing died during our long miserable winter and everything is looking remarkably healthy. 

Monday, 18 June 2018

It's that time of year again

Borders Book Festival time!  I have been down in Melrose since last Wednesday, working in the bookshop at the Borders Book Festival.  Highlight of my year!  Now I am home again, and been through my photos, which in small measure record a brilliant weekend.  The rest is lodged in my memory and it has been such a cracking time, there is no danger that those memories will fade.
Last Wednesday we set up the bookshop.  
From a sea of boxes an orderly bookshop appeared, and after a sustained attempt by Storm Hector, early on Thursday morning, to ruin everything by almost blowing away one of the tents in the orchard area of the festival, and the regrettable cancellation of the Schools Gala Day, the main programme kicked off on time with The Hairy Bikers, who, during one of their interviews, I overheard to say "it's a bit like Glastonbury, but with library tickets"!  Best quote of the festival! 
Before their event, they sat down and signed a huge number of their cookery books, in an impressively speedy and practised routine!  
The new grand dame of The Great British Bake Off, Prue Leith, made an appearance later on Thursday evening.
And we also enjoyed the peaceful presence of Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, Abbot of Samye Ling Monastery at Eskdalmuir in south west Scotland.
This year there was a vintage cinema in a vehicle which looked very much like my old school bus, but with an extra bit on top which houses the cine reels!  In a year when we are celebrating the centenary of the birth of Muriel Spark (the festival hosted a session where Ian Rankin and Alan Taylor discussed her work), the cinema showed The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
Over four days, we had a pretty impressive line up of speakers.  In addition to Gordon Brown, William Hague, comic strip king and creator of Millarworld, Mark Millar, Richard Dawkins, Anthony Beevor and Natalie Haynes, here's a few more.
I managed to hear Misha Glenny, talking about the recent television series, McMafia, which is a fictional story based on the facts in his book of the same name.  Extraordinary - and scary - stuff. 

There's plenty of good food, drink and treats to be found at the Borders Book Festival!  I am a regular visitor to the ice cream stall,
and creme brûlée is my favourite pudding - so I visited here too!
Of course the books are the real stars of the show, and they were getting plenty of attention.  We sold masses!
The other brilliant aspect of the book festival is its venue - the gardens of National Trust for Scotland property, Harmony House.  They are wonderful, and full of delicious scents as you walk from one festival marquee to another.
There can't be many world class book festivals held in a vegetable garden!
Mark Millar at his book signing.  Some travelled from the States to hear him, and Nottingham, and no doubt others from far afield.  
Apart from the gale force winds we had on Thursday, we also had rain on Saturday
but lovely sunshine too.  
On Sunday morning I had a short walk by the river before heading back to the book shop for a final day of books, authors, book buyers and brilliant buzz.  
Robert Peston kicked off the talks on Sunday, which was eventually rounded off by Kate Moss.  
Lamprocapnos spectabilis, bleeding heart, in the flower bed near the book tent, except that my heart was not bleeding as the festival drew to a close.  It was singing with the love of it all.  Can't wait for next year now.  My bed and breakfast room is already booked!